A painting of a woman in black-and-white crying to the left while a woman on the right holds a floating baby

Alexandra Noel

Alexandra Noel’s small-scale paintings contain uncanny assemblages of images. In recent years she has focused on subjects shown in a manner that is simultaneously surreal and familiar: babies, domestic objects, and scenes of suburbia. These commonplace elements are often placed within far-flung imaginary settings and tragic scenarios as well as reimagined scenes from films. Her compact panels reference relationships of scale between the body and handheld devices, treated as images on-screen—zoomed in, cropped, stretched, or rescaled—and are sometimes even made using her fingers in place of a paintbrush. Her work invites intimate viewing and highlights tensions between the sculptural and the illusionistic. In addition to her work as a painter, Noel writes fiction that mimics the tone of poetry or a screenplay, a linguistic parallel to the dystopic and fantastical elements in her paintings.

In her recent paintings Noel continues her lyrical process of presenting both found and imagined images, with an emphasis on themes of creation, both organic and artistic, as well as ruminations on siblings and doubles. Consistent with this theme, the subject matter of these paintings is germane to that of the twin body of works shown at The Huntington, with subtle differences. The artist intends to create a déjà vu effect for the viewer, an eerie connection between the two sets of works as well as the two institutions. To Noel, these similarities emphasize a “longing” between the two parts of the exhibition, which work like the broken-heart friendship necklaces popular among children, mirroring each other across the expanse of the city.

In Made in L.A. 2020: a version, the artist’s work is present in two institutions, across Los Angeles. See Alexandra Noel's work on view at The Huntington.


Alexandra Noel was born in 1989 in Columbus, Ohio. She studied at the University of San Diego and Art Center College of Design, Pasadena. Noel’s uncannily small-scale paintings examine visual paradoxes and humorous absurdities, often focusing on babies, domestic objects, and suburbia in the context of late capitalism. She also explores far-flung or imaginary places as sets for tragic scenarios as well as reimagined scenes from films. Her compositions are sometimes treated like an image on-screen: zoomed in, cropped, stretched, or rescaled. Through this process the image becomes strangely flat, one-dimensional, and abstracted, while the panel it is painted on becomes sculptural. Comparable in size to handheld devices and sometimes made using her fingers in place of a paintbrush, her paintings call for intimate viewing and a reconsideration of the position of the viewer in the world. Noel maintains a writing practice—creating fiction that at times mimics the tone of poetry or a screenplay—a linguistic parallel to the surreal, dystopic, and fantastical elements in her paintings. She often accompanies her exhibitions with texts of her own, constructing narratives that pose questions more than they provide answers, adding to the work’s mystery and quasi-abstraction. Noel has had solo exhibitions at Bodega, New York (2019, 2016); Freedman Fitzpatrick, Paris (2019); and Parker Gallery, Los Angeles (2018).